AIKEN - Schools in Aiken County scored better than the South Carolina average on the Metropolitan Achievement Test, according to figures released Tuesday.
And if you ask Aiken County schools Superintendent Linda Eldridge how area public schools compare to the state average on the standardized test, you'll get a pointed response.
"We have something to write home about," she said after reviewing data compiled by the state Department of Education, which tracked how South Carolina schools measured up nationally on the MAT-7.
Aiken County students exceeded the state average by a noticeable margin on all 15 portions of the test, the data showed.
"This is just the beginning for us," Mrs. Eldridge said. "Our prime focus is on achievement. We have made that our top priority."
The S.C. Department of Education requires that districts test students in grades one, two, three, four, five, seven, nine and 11. Tests measure a student's knowledge in reading, mathematics and language. Results are reported for all three areas as well as for a composite score - commonly known as the "3 Rs" - based on all three subjects.
Compared to other school districts statewide, Aiken exceeded the state average on every test.
For instance, 47 percent of Aiken County students met or exceeded the national average in fourth-grade reading, compared to 41 percent statewide. Figures compiled for ninth-grade math show half of Aiken's students exceeded the national average - a 6 percent increase over the rest of the state.
Statewide, however, many high schools still rank below the national median, where ninth-graders posted the lowest overall numbers and 11th-grade scores fell.
MAT-7 scores also remained low among black students and those receiving free or reduced-cost lunches, a common measure of students from low-income homes. But the results show more low-income students are moving out of the lower quarters.
In Aiken County, however, schools that have not traditionally scored well on the test showed drastic improvements.
For instance, Gloverville Elementary made improvements in first-grade reading. This year, 66 percent of the students met or exceeded the national median, more than doubling last year's figures.
Another Aiken school, J.D. Lever Elementary, showed improvements on the MAT-7, on which 58 percent of fifth graders exceeded the national average - up 13 percent from last year.